A guide to working with me

A few years ago, Cassie Robinson published her manual for me, and it became a common tool used in many of the digital product teams I’ve…

A guide to working with me
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

A few years ago, Cassie Robinson published her manual for me, and it became a common tool used in many of the digital product teams I’ve worked on in government.

I’m obsessively self-reflective, so every time I’ve completed one, I’ve enjoyed having a chance to think about the ways I work and the things I do and why I do them. I think it’s important to take time to do these things, whether you share them or not.

Another version of this I came across was “A guide to working with …” by Lily Konigs. I really liked the questions she asked, so when I was preparing to onboard a new member to my team, I decided to have a go at it, so I could be transparent with my new hire and not expect her to make assumptions about my personality. I also asked her to share back her own guide, which she made using a mural template, and it was a really helpful way for me to learn about her at the same time.

I’ve now shared this guide around with many people in my org, in the form of a google doc, but I figured it might be useful to also make it public. So here we go.

A guide to working with Martha Edwards


  • Currently a Service Design Lead at the Government of BC.
  • I’ve been in government since 2010.
  • Before joining the BC Government, I worked at the City of Calgary, the UK Government (Cabinet Office and Government Digital Service), and the Canadian Digital Service (part of the federal government.)
  • I’ve worked on problems like Brexit (ugh), Identity verification, RCMP crime reporting and various tech platforms.
  • I’ve mostly worked in User Research roles, but also have training and experience with UI, UX and visual design.
  • I like writing in bullet points
  • You can find out more on linkedin, twitter, or here on medium


  • INFJ on Myers Briggs — aka The Advocate
  • I have 2 young kids, so life outside of work is busy and hectic.
  • Because of school/childcare drop offs, I usually don’t get to my desk until 9 (10 if I commute to the office which I try to do once a week.) I also work a flexible work schedule with every other Monday off.
  • I’m a social introvert. I love engaging with people but hate being the centre of attention. I also find it really exhausting so I need downtime afterwards. If I am quiet from time to time, that’s usually why.
  • I’m a bit neurodiverse — this shows up as being forgetful, socially awkward and sometimes having trouble coming up with something useful to say on the spot (I often will come back with a response after a discussion has finished.)
  • I’m a very open, informal and easygoing person. Humour is a must for me to keep work interesting (I use a lot of animated gifs in presentations.)
  • By default, I assume good intent in people, although I’m also quick to call out problematic behaviour if I see someone being treated poorly.

Values & Culture

These are the things I value in in teams I work for and with:

  • Psychological safety. Everyone should feel safe and respected at work
  • Equity and inclusion. Making sure everyone has the same opportunities, and no one is left out. Those with privilege using their privilege to lift up others
  • Changing government to work better for people. The needs of service users and people should matter more than business / government requirements.
  • Openness and transparency. Sharing our work, our decisions in the open (publicly), both to get feedback and also to help others who are facing similar problems
  • Having impact at scale. When possible, we should try to openly solve problems across government, rather than teams solving individual problems behind closed doors.
  • Boldness / willing to question things and take risks. I believe we all need to be bolder in our work, to question how things are done, to be willing to (responsibly) take risks.
  • Work/life balance. I encourage and model flexible working, including logging off completely outside of work hours.
  • 80/20 rule. 80% product work and 20% doing something to make the organisation better. I try to be generous with my time, expertise and feedback, and I encourage others to do the same


You can earn gold stars with me by:

  • Explaining complex things in super simple terms, and using less words in presentations, instead focusing the story you’re telling to what will have the most impact on your audience.
  • Being bold and questioning things
  • Giving honest feedback when something isn’t going well
  • Working across teams and silos to build connection and collaboration
  • Contributing to things outside of your product work, like speaking at events, mentoring or sharing expertise, anything that makes things better for others.

Quirks about me that may annoy others:

  • I often run late for things.
  • I tend to forget details (so I try write a lot of stuff down)
  • I’m not great at small talk
  • I have trouble focusing in meetings so I will often doodle, which makes people think I am not paying attention (it’s actually the opposite.)
  • As a service designer, it’s my job to point out problems and things that I think can be improved. I’ve heard this can be a bit demoralising for a product team, but I keep doing it because I think we need to understand the problems well if we are going to solve them. I don’t want to hurt anyone or damage the team culture so please reach out to me if you feel I’ve been too harsh or critical.
  • I ask a lot of questions, even basic ones that I know the answer to. This is intentional — I want to remind people to be more clear and simple with their communication, and also for the benefit of other people in the room who might be wondering the same but afraid to ask.

This post on 10 tips for working with a service designer is a great explainer for a lot of quirks that I and other service designers might have.


  • I am terrible at email, but pretty good at checking MS Teams and Rocketchat messages. I’m also active and responsive on slack communities and twitter. I’m now on mastodon too.
  • I’m happy to talk over written messages or over a call, but on calls I sometimes need to take a question away and think about it before answering.
  • When it comes to messaging and emails, I always prefer brief messages or some sort of summary. If you write me a long email and it’s not clear what I’m meant to do with it, I will skim it or just not read it.
  • I find it really difficult to take in and understand too much information. If, for example, a slide has more than 20 words or report is full of long, complex paragraphs, I probably won’t come away with anything tangible away from it. The cognitive load is too high. This is why I try to communicate in very simple, concise and direct ways and find it helpful when others do too. Doing presentations is a resource I find useful.
  • I’m flexible and will communicate and engage with people in the way that suits them best. I like doing regular 1 on 1s but if this isn’t ideal, I’m open to changing this.

Feedback & Recognition

  • I value open and honest feedback — positive and negative. So I will aim to give both and hope that people I work with will do the same. I used to work in journalism so I can take constructive criticism pretty well, if given in a respectful way.
  • I want to make sure the people I work with feel valued and recognized, in a way that works for them. I will adapt my own feedback methods to suit different people.
  • I dislike being the centre of attention, so usually prefer recognition and feedback in a one-on-one basis rather than a group setting.